This week saw another oldies lunch with our club.. To give the club its proper name it is: "Club des Aines de Castanet". Aines are elders in French so we're the elders club. Our nickname is; "Los Castanhares. This is all part of what the French refer to as Le Troisieme Age; the third age after childhood and adulthood. We always have a good time whether its a lunch like the other day or an outing (the outings also include a meal. Our French friends know how to live.)
The other day there were roughly 60 of us in the Castanet Salle des Fêtes sitting at four very long tables. Its nice now to know quite a few people and to exchange greetings. The French are very polite in this way and will make sure that they greet every acquaintance individually. As we now know a substantial number of our fellow members it took quite a while for us to work our way across the room to 'our table'. (More about that later.)
I think that I'm finally getting the hang of French greeting; who to kiss, how many times and who to shake hands with. Guys are easy; you just shake hands with perhaps a shoulder slap if you know the guy well. Women are harder. Mostly, I play it safe & shake hands unless I get a clear kissing signal in which case I do; kiss that is. If, however, I've been to that woman's house on a social occasion then I'll initiate a kiss; normally three in our area, but only two with many of the 'foreigners' - Except with Collette who is a good friend and who although born in the village lived in Paris for many years. She insists upon four! I sort of half think that its not really a Parisian custom, its more that Collette likes to kiss. In any case I haven't been slapped lately so I can't be too far off.
As expected we were fed well for our 10 Euros. We had a Kir aperitif with some nibbles to munch on before our soup. The soup was a hardy country soup of vegetables, lardons and chicken, very nice. Next came a salad with ham, cheese and garlic croûtons over mixed lettuces with vinaigrette dressing. The fish course was a puff pastry 'pie' filled with mussels, shrimp & scallop in a very tasty sauce. Our main course was fillet of veal, roasted with a mushroom (ceps) sauce served with aligot. ( Aligot is a local specialty made of potatoes, fresh tomme cheese and garlic. The potatoes are mashed then everything is heated together and stirred until fully mixed. Its very good, but also very filling) We then had the cheese platter (selection of 4 cheeses) followed by the dessert which was a lemon souffle with a mixed berry topping. A very nice lunch all things considered. Time was taken serving it and seconds were offered for almost every course. Hard to beat. Wine throughout, naturally.
With the coffee came the singing. There were a few nice solos and group songs. Then came the reason 'our table' was mentioned earlier. All the English speakers had sat together (not our normal habit) so that we could sing. Well, I don't sing as I'm incredibly awful, but everybody else did. Andrew had downloaded some song lyrics so for once we knew all the words. I think our French friends appreciated the effort. In the past we English speakers have suffered from not knowing the words to the French songs let alone the Occitan ones and by not knowing enough words to our own English songs to make a good showing. The French, of course, seem to know the words to all of their songs no matter how many verses. Honor was satisfied and we all felt better about our participation. Even I who was with my English speaking friends only in spirit; lacking any kind of voice.
As the party broke up I got several invitations to watch the France- England World Cup semi-final that Saturday at the Salle des Fêtes in Parisot. It was nice to be asked even though I suspect there was an element of wanting to see how I reacted to the, they thought, inevitable defeat of England. That's a different story, however. I've given up reminding all of our French friends and neighbors that I'm America, not English. Ah well its sort of like the D-Day party our American friends hold every 4th of July. The misconception is harmless and its just better to go with the flow.